David Prosser: Now it's time to stamp out corruption and bribery for good


Outlook No doubt groups such as the Campaign Against Arms Trade and The Corner House will be disappointed byyesterday's sentencing of BAE for offences connected to its sale of a radar system to Tanzania more than 10 years ago. They had called on Mr Justice Bean to reject the plea bargain BAE had agreed with the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) on the affair, which specifically clears the defence company of allegations of corruption. That he did not do so, instead fining BAE £500,000 for accounting failures, will have upset anti-corruption campaigners.

The difficulty, however, is that while even the judge raisedconcerns about the fishy payments BAE accepts it made to a middleman in the Tanzania deal, there was no evidence with which to build a case against the company for more serious offences. The question for the SFO, then, was whether to risk looking supine by charging BAE with what was a minor offence in the context of what appears to everyone else to have been a much bigger stink.

In many ways, it is to the SFO's credit that it accepted the risk of losing face. Campaigners against corruption may not like the plea-bargain system, but in this case it has at least enabled prosecutors to secure a conviction against BAE – as well as £30m of compensation for the people of Tanzania, who were the ultimate victims of this sorry affair.

Why couldn't the SFO build a more serious case? The answer lies in the corruption laws in place at the time of the Tanzania deal. To accuse BAE of corruption, the SFO would have to have been able to show that someone very senior at the company – probably at board level – had been closely involved with the affair. It had no evidence to prove that this was indeed the case.

Speaking more generally, that burden of proof would be exceptionally tough to achieve in almost any case. Companies whose staff have been caught out paying bribes have always been able to paint such individuals as rogue operators, while maintaining their own innocence.

Fortunately, the law has now changed. From April, accusations of corporate corruption will have to clear a significantly lowerhurdle. Where an employee or agent of a company is shown to have paid a bribe, the company will be guilty too, unless it can show it had proper procedures in place to prevent such corruption, which the individual in question had to take extraordinary measures to circumvent.

It is a welcome reform, but until the law takes effect, critics of the SFO ought to hold their fire. For now, the agency is doing its best to prosecute corruption cases, but has one hand tied behind its back. The proof of its ability to fight corruption will be how many successful cases it manages to bring once it has the new law in its armoury.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

Market Risk & Control Manager

Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...

SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

Head of Audit

To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments